Combating the Societal Disease of Our Time

Norman Lear is credited with saying "Short-term thinking is the societal disease of our time." The corporate world has been sick with this disease for a long time and it is clear the disease has spread to other bodies in life: politics, entertainment and even the church. Perhaps you have seen the ramifications of being sick with this disease? We are feverishly addicted to the quarterly reports. We check the and and down of the sock market daily. We look to medication that can claims to change our lives thirty days. Content longer than three minutes is too long

We break up writing so to order lower the pressure of committing to read an entire paragraph. 

Photo by  William Iven  on  Unsplash

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Organizations infected with short-termism infect the members of that organization. Short-termism then spreads and the epidemic is upon us. We know the cure to break the fever, but ain't nobody have time for that.

Rather than prescribing new practices such as breathing or meditation, rather I offer up something that was recently taught to me. I cannot recall where it came from nor the more articulate way it is described, but it is the idea that we are only 10 people away from Jesus. 

The idea is that your life is really about 200 years rather than just the 70ish we think of. How do you get to impact 200 years?  Simply add three numbers.

  • The age of oldest person who knew you were born +
  • The number of years you live +
  • The death age of the youngest person who knew you when you die

This simple equation of impact means that the life impact of Jesus is not 2000 years away but only ten people away.

Short termism can be addressed by shifting how we think about the world. The monthly, quarterly or even annual reports are too short term. The Spirit of God has a different scale. Our little short term reports would be laughable if they were not so damaging to our bodies. 

The Key Difference Between a Cleanse and a Fast

If you are into cleanses then that is great, but do not confuse a cleanse with a fast. They are different.

Of course a cleanse is different from a fast in that many cleanses encourage taking in of some food or liquid and fasts generally do not. It is also true that there are some cleanses that call for fasting from food. I can list all the ways cleanses and fasts overlap or not, but beyond the superficialities, cleanses and fasts are fundamentally different in one way: what they embrace.

The promise of the cleanse is some combination of prolong life and/or health, greater energy, weight loss, better eating habits, etc. Be it the advice of Dr. Oz or any number of cleanses (liver, colon, juice, soup, coconut oil, sauna, etc.), there is a lot to be said for being more aware of what we are eating and how much of it we eat. There is nothing wrong to being healthy, and perhaps a cleanse is a good thing for all of us. However, the promise of the cleanse is that by practicing all these things you will stave off death for a little bit longer than you would otherwise. Cleanses embrace life.

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Conversely a fast is an intentional practice of limiting food for the purpose of coming face to face with your limitations and dependence upon others. It is purposefully entering into a state of limits in order to practice in order to be at peace with the limits of life. Fasts may have some physical discomfort but the intended discomfort of the fast is the discomfort we have with death. Thus the more we fast, the more we come to terms with our own deaths. Which is why fasts embrace death.

People are motivated to take on cleanses or fasts for a variety of reasons, and I am not in a position to dismiss these reasons. You may be a person who practice fasting and more power to you. However, if we embark on a fast that leads us to embrace life rather than embrace death, then we are really embarking on a cleanse by another name. 

The Greatest Wisdom From the Desert Christians - In One Line

I was sitting in my office the other day reading and trying to discover what the heck God would have for me to say on a Sunday morning, when a church member walked in and offered me a homemade blueberry scone. I accepted the gift, but stated I consumed a large breakfast about fifteen minutes just before. The young woman's face turned a bit downward as she realized that I was not planning on enjoying her gift. 

As she left I turned back to my reading material (The Wisdom of the Desert by James O. Hannay) and read: "So far as the advice of the greatest Fathers can be said to form a rule, it may be expressed in the words -- "Do not eat to satiety."

Simple meals allow us to receive hospitality from others.

Simple meals allow us to receive hospitality from others.

This is one of the few times that I sort of understood what the heck the desert mothers/fathers were talking about: Eating to your fill is unhealthy, but not because of the calories but because it denies hospitality. 

In not eating the scone, because I was full, I denied the hospitality of the young woman. I was not able to, because my stomach was full, to accept any more from another.

Clergy have been told that self care is important because you can only give what you yourself have. If you are empty, then you have nothing to give. 

This truth also holds not just if we are empty but also if we are too full. When we eat (or live) to satiety, then we are too full to accept anything else. This is an old truth but one that I often forget. 

Do not eat/live to satiety - you never know when Christ calls you to accept a new thing.

Are the Seasons Backwards?

Back in 2009, the question was raised, "Could the problem with Sunday worship be that it begins out week?" The assumption I generally operate from is that Sunday is the start of the week. But, the question wonders, is it more reflective of a deep wisdom that Sunday should be considered as the culmination (the end) of the week? 

Taking this idea of flipping my assumptions, it lead me to think about the seasons of the year. 

While the calendar year ends in December, for reasons I cannot place my finger on, I have always put the "start" of life in the season of spring. In fact if I were allowed to remake the calendar, I would have shifted the start of the new calendar year with the first day of spring. Spring has new buds and new leaves and new life and it all feels like spring is the start of a new life. Conversely, winter signaled to me the "end". Cold and dark, it just made sense to me that winter is the end of life and spring is the beginning. 

However, what if this ordering of the seasons misses a deep wisdom? What if we did not associate spring with the beginning of new life but we considered the season of fall? 

If we think of fall as the "beginning" then we gain a good number of deep truths. First of all, we no longer would be so afraid of death and dying. Death and dying would be the "start" of a new life. And in fact, in the world of plants, death is the start of life. If death is seen as the start of our lives, then how would our minds change toward our care for the elderly?  

After our new life begins in death (fall), the next step in life is germination (winter). This is the season of wondering what sort of new thing God is germinating in us. This season of germination would be the season of deep faith that God is doing something even if we cannot see it. It is the season of faith that there will be spring and summer after the dark season of winter. Additionally, Advent, the season around Christmas which focuses on God coming into the world, would take on a whole series of new meanings.

After the season of germination (winter) we begin to flower and see the beginning of this thing that God has been doing in our lives for the past six months. We no longer see flowers as the start of the process but as the half way point of what God is doing. We begin to see that these flowers are beautiful but temporal. Spring becomes the season that we rejoice that God is faithful to us because for six months we may not have seen much evidence of God's work in us when we began this process of new life.

Finally, we see the "fruit" of the past nine months of God working in and on us in the season of summer. The fruit is sweet and provides sustenance for us. We assess if we are producing good or not so good fruit. As we sit in the heat of summer, beaten down by the sun, we can only consider if the work that we have done with God the past year is fruit bearing. While we enjoy these fruits we understand that God is calling us into a new thing once more and we take that first step into new life by dying to our old life - the season of fall is upon us once more.